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Sofia Vergara, Luis Balaguer and Emiliano Calemzuk Launch Latino Digital-Media Startup Raze

Variety logo Variety 1/19/2017 Todd Spangler
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Sofia Vergara, media entrepreneur and star of ABC’s “Modern Family,” together with her longtime business partner Luis Balaguer and Emiliano Calemzuk, former president of Fox Television Studios, have formed Raze: a digital media company dedicated to producing “Latin-centered” content spanning scripted and unscripted formats on multiple platforms.

UTA and entertainment law firm Ziffren Brittenham LLP are founding partners and advisers for the Beverly Hills-based startup. Raze has closed a round of Series A funding from UTA, Greycroft Partners and Raine Ventures. With the investments, Brent Weinstein, partner and head of digital media at UTA, and Greycroft partner Mark Terbeek have joined the board of Raze.

Calemzuk, who is Raze’s CEO, declined to provide the funding amount but said it was in the mid seven figures. Raze, whose website is at raze.tv, plans to launch later this year as a mobile- and video-first destination that will be a hub for news, lifestyle and beauty.

“We realized the best thing to do would create a company for both traditional and digital media, and over time give the audience following all this talent one destination,” said Calemzuk. “We want to turn that connection from just being a sporadic, social-media-driven one to a content-driven one.”

Raze will incorporate Vergara and Balaguer’s Latin World Entertainment, the Hispanic talent management and entertainment-marketing firm they started in 1994. The announcement is timed for the NATPE conference in Miami, where Calemzuk and Balaguer are speaking Thursday.

UTA’s Weinstein noted that the U.S. Hispanic audience is one of the fastest-growing and most important demographic segments for programmers and advertisers. “We jumped at the opportunity to work with Sofia, Luis and Emiliano to build a dynamic new media company to create and deliver premium programming to that key demographic,” he said in a prepared statement.

Terbeek added, “The (Raze) team has a proven ability to create valuable content franchises that resonate with audiences worldwide, and they have developed unparalleled talent relationships in their segment over the last few decades which would be practically impossible to replicate.”

Raze was formed in May 2016 and has already produced its first show: “Su Nombre Era Dolores, la Jenn Que Yo Conocí” (“Her Name was Dolores, the Jenn I Knew”), produced in partnership with BTF and Dhana Media. The scripted series about late Mexican-American superstar Jenni Rivera aired on Univision.

The company has additional TV shows in development, including a scripted series in partnership with soccer star Diego Armando Maradona based on his life, in partnership with Dhana Media and BTF; a young adult hour-long soap based on the hit Wattpad novel “Mi Hermanastro” (“My Stepbrother”), which has over 22 million downloads online; and a series on the life of Latino hip-hop star and actor Don Omar.

“The Hispanic experience in the U.S. is so broad — you can’t define it as one narrow genre,” said Calemzuk, adding that Raze’s content strategy will focus on aspirational storytelling themes like creativity and hard work. “As with anything in the digital space, we want to iterate and double down on things where we find our stride.”

Raze will produce and sell shows to third-party distributors, while it will work with talent to produce content for its own properties as well as for YouTube, Facebook and other social platforms. “If you want to launch a media company for the next 10 years, you have to be everywhere,” Calemzuk said.

Most recently, Calemzuk worked with Time Inc. to develop long-form documentary films and docuseries and also was an adviser to Sky Italia. Before that he was CEO of Elisabeth Murdoch’s Shine Americas, and spent 14 years at News Corp. working in domestic and international TV.

Raze’s owned-and-operated platform will be ad supported, with no plans for a subscription model. According to Balaguer, Raze will be “a great tool for advertisers and products to connect with transforming Latino audiences, and will benefit from the shifting of audiences from traditional platforms to mobile video.”

Pictured above (l. to r.): Luis Balaguer, Sofia Vergara, Emiliano Calemzuk

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